Varieties in the Conception of Capitalism

Seminar with professor Harold James.

When asked what he means by "democratic socialism," presidential candidate Bernie Sanders typically points to the Nordic countries. In Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark, education is provided for free, social insurance is unimaginably generous, and times are good. We should follow their example, he says.

Sanders has a conception of capitalism and socialism that is probably shared by many politicians and economists in the US, both on the political right and the left. They doubt whether Norway and the other Nordic countries are genuinely capitalist.

In "The Cambridge History of Capitalism Volume 1", four elements are mentioned to be common "in each variant of capitalism:
1. Private property rights.
2. Contracts enforceable by third parties.
3. Markets with responsive prices.
4. Supportive governments.

But how much of the economy must be in harmony with these criteria for being called "capitalist"? Since "capitalism" is used so broadly, it would be of interest to discuss the different theoretical sources of the concept, and its diverse applications.

Harold James is professor of History and International Affairs and the Director of the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society at Princeton University. He has published extensively on economic and financial history and modern European history.

Practical information

  • Time:Monday, 29 January 2018 13:00 - 15:00
  • Place:BI - Campus Oslo, Room: A2-015
  • Contact:Britt-Mari Sletto (britt-mari.sletto@bi.no)